Sex and the Ballot Box: Perception of Ballot Measures Regarding Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion in California
37 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 18 Jul 2012
Date Written: July 17, 2012
States with direct democracy routinely ask voters to modify their states’ laws and constitutions and to authorize the raising of billions of dollars in bonds and taxes. In recent elections, voters in many American states have also voted on important social policies that redefine civil liberties within their state. Do voters know enough about these social policies to make an informed decision? The common wisdom is that when choosing between candidates, voters rely on information shortcuts in lieu of extensive knowledge about the issues. Unlike candidate elections, however, ballot measures lack some useful information shortcuts such as party identification. Using data from an election survey, we test the hypothesis that voters use shortcuts to make reasoned decisions on two ballot measures central to today’s policy debates: California’s Proposition 4 (2008) on parental notification for abortion and Proposition 8 (2008) on same-sex marriage. We show that voters do not use cues universally, and furthermore, the amount of factual information a voter possesses has almost no effect on her decisions.
Keywords: Direct Democracy, Constitutional Initiatives, Voting, Proposition 8
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